Cumberland Trail: Cascades of Duskin Creek – Tennessee

Went with some friends to check out this secluded section of the Cumberland Trail in Tennessee.  This was by far one of my favorite trips ever.  The trail is located in Spring City, Tennessee.  Chances are you’ve never even heard of Spring City; that’s the point.  The seclusion this trail offers, along with the interesting sandstone formations, the crystal clear waters, cascades, and perfect swimming holes makes it a fantastic weekend excursion.  Couldn’t find much information online regarding this portion of the Cumberland trail, so hopefully this post will help others interested in making the trip.  This trail is considered moderate to difficult due to slight elevation changes and rocky, uneven terrain.

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Directions to trailhead: From Spring City (at the junction of US 27 and TN 68) take 68 north towards Crossville.  Drive approximately 1.3 miles to Shut In Gap Road.  Turn on Shut In Gap Rd. and follow it for approximately 6.2 miles to where it turns to Walden Mountain Road (road will eventually turn to gravel along the way).  Turn left to stay on Walden Mountain Road (which did not have a sign when I went – so keep your eyes peeled).  Turn left onto Walden Moutain Rd.  At 0.1 mile you will see a dirt double track road on your left; don’ turn here but continue straight until you come to a split of equal-sized gravel roads – turn left here.  The trailhead and parking area will be on your left after a low-water bridge after 1 mile.

This was an annual hiking trip for me and two of my lifelong friends.  We got to the trailhead really late, so instead of hiking in the dark and missing the scenery, we spent the night at the trailhead reminiscing, listening to music, catching up, and taking some interesting pictures.

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As always though, Leave no Trace; we cleaned up after ourselves and no evidence of a campfire or any other evidence of our trailhead camping was left behind.

The first stretch of the trail follows Duskin Creek through a remote forested area with many interesting geological formations soon appearing.  You will pass over Dusin Creek on a metal bridge at 0.3 miles.  Crossing the bridge will put you on the left-hand side of the river; you will remain on this side for the rest of the trip.  At 0.5 miles you will climb away from the water, but the trail once again aligns with the creek at 0.7 miles.  At 0.9 miles the path again veers away from the water, but you will follow a set of switchbacks at 1.2 miles to again meet Duskin Creek.  At 1.4 miles you will reach White Pine Cascades.

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This is a fine place to utilize a natural seating area at the lower end of the pool to hydrate, grab a snack, and/or take in the view.  In addition to the cascading water, the stacked sandstone formations here are quite interesting and have a paleolithic feel (many Jurassic Park references were made during this point in the trail amongst the group).

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After White Pine Cascades, the trail will continue to weave away from and eventually rejoin the creek.  Take time to admire the unique woodland rock pillars along the trail.

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At 2.0 miles you will reach a spur trail to the Spider Den (a tall bluff with a naturally overhanging rock shelter).  The Spider Den spur trail adds an additional 0.6 mile (0.3 in both directions) to your trip if you choose to take it.  At the entrance to the Spider Den spur trail we found two snake spines entwined on a rock (which is of no importance to this trail description, but interesting nonetheless).

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From the Spider Den spur trail, the main trail continues above Duskin Creek until you reach a cove at 2.4 miles.  Here you will pass through a fantastic campsite, although the ground has a slight slope; my friends and I are partial to hammock camping so it posed no problem for us.

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If you are staying the night, I recommend setting up camp here, or dropping off your heavy gear, before proceeding.  Smart hikers will bring along a small bag (e.g., a collapsible daypack) in your primary pack so that you can take essentials to the next feature (drinks, snacks, swim suit, towel, camera, etc.).  At 2.5 miles you will reach a steel bridge overlooking Deep Pool Cascades.  The pool and the falls are, in my opinion, the main event of this trip.

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The deep, crystal clear pool is ideal for swimming and the rocks offer a nice area for sitting or jumping in the pool for the more adventurous types.  For access to the pool, backtrack slightly from the steel bridge and cut through the underbrush to the creek and proceed to the top of the cascades.  There is even a nice tabletop rock perfect for lounging on or temporarily stowing your gear.

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The main trail continues downstream and reaches a junction at 2.7 miles.  A spur trail continues along Duskin Creek while the Cumberland Trail climbs away.  Stay on the spur trail to reach Hemlock Falls at 2.8 miles.  Hemlock Falls is an 8 foot tall cascade that is a nice stopping point along this trail.

The bulk of our trip was primarily spent swimming and relaxing at Deep Pool Cascades.  However, we did spend a good portion of time sitting around White Pine Cascades due to its interesting atmosphere.    Again, I couldn’t find much online regarding this portion of the Cumberland Trail, so hopefully this post will provide some info to interested hikers.  Enjoy and be safe.

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